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OfCom stops local DAB broadcaster MuxCo’s expansion into Swansea



AN APPLICATION by MuxCo Wales Limited (“MuxCo”), the holder of the local radio multiplex licence for Mid & West Wales, to extend the licensed area for its service to include Swansea, has been refused by Ofcom this week (Aug 1).

MuxCo broadcasts Radio Pembrokeshire, Radio Carmarthenshire, Swansea Bay Radio, National Radio, Dragon Radio, Heart and BBC Radio Wales to Mid and West Wales in the DAB radio format.

But MuxCo’s grab for the Swansea broadcast area did not safeguard other commercial interests, OfCom said.

A spokesman from the broadcasting regulator told The Herald: “We do not consider that we have sufficient evidence to be satisfied that there are sufficient safeguards in place to protect the rights and interests of other multiplex operators.”

A public consultation was held between 30 January and 28 February 2017.Ofcom received three responses  – one from the holder of the Swansea local radio multiplex licence, Switchdigital (S&S) Limited (“Switchdigital”), opposing the request, and two other responses from individuals who were in support of the request.

In considering MuxCo’s request in relation to the first of the policy criteria listed above, Ofcom took account of the fact that the request, if approved, would not result in local DAB coverage being extended into an un-served area as there is no proposed change to the coverage of the Mid & West Wales multiplex.

Indeed, in its application for the change MuxCo stated that the purpose of its request was to “formally incorporate coverage [of the city and county of Swansea] that the multiplex already delivers”. Since the proposal would not provide a service in an un-served area as the Mux Co service is already being transmitted in the Swansea area, its provision would not in itself enhance consumer choice in terms of the services available in the Swansea area (listeners would continue to receive the services they are able to receive currently) or result in an increase in competition in that area. Also in its response to the consultation, Switchdigital argued that the proposal to make a formal change to MuxCo’s licensed area, if approved, could operate to harm the development of DAB broadcasting because it would increase the cost to Switchdigital, whose service was specifically designed and licensed for the Swansea area, of improving the coverage of its own multiplex in that area (if it chose to do so) as in that event Switchdigital would be required to deploy an additional transmitter to avoid causing interference to the Mid & West Wales multiplex. Whilst we acknowledge that Switchdigital might have to deploy an additional transmitter in these circumstances, we do not attach great weight to this argument since the coverage of the Swansea multiplex in the area which MuxCo is seeking to add to its licensed area is already very extensive, and consequently, it does not seem very likely that Switchdigital would seek to enhance its coverage there.

An Ofcom report into the application stated: “Both MuxCo and Switchdigital made reference in their submissions to the Local DAB Expansion Plan, an agreement between Government, the BBC and the operators of local DAB multiplexes (i.e. including both MuxCo and Switchdigital) made in 2014 to extend and improve local DAB coverage to make it broadly equivalent to the existing FM coverage of the largest local commercial radio service in each local area.”

The report went on to say: “MuxCo stated that as part of “the wider industry discussions” (i.e. the discussions which led to this agreement), “we believe that there are sufficient safeguards in place to protect the rights and interests of other multiplex operators and the services they carry”. However, Switchdigital pointed out that MuxCo had not requested this extension to its licensed area during the negotiations that led to that agreement so the extension was not considered alongside the series of other changes to licensed areas (and frequencies) requested by all local multiplex operators in 2015 to help facilitate the Local DAB Expansion Plan2 (i.e. what MuxCo referred to as “the wider industry discussions”).”

Ofcom said: “Consequently, MuxCo’s belief that the rights and interests of other local multiplex operators were sufficiently safeguarded on the basis of that agreement was based on industry discussions which had not considered the change to the licensed area MuxCo was now proposing.

“In light of the above and having considered all the available information and representations made, we do not consider that we have sufficient evidence to be satisfied that there are sufficient safeguards in place to protect the rights and interests of other multiplex operators.

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The Range’s Swansea Store Shortlisted for ‘Best Christmas Display’



Christmas has arrived early for The Range stores in Wales, boasting gigantic displays of all-things festive! The Range is well known for going all out during the Christmas season to create a fun and magical experience full of trees, lights, decorations and much more for their customers to enjoy and this year is no exception. The Range in Swansea surpassed expectations with a display so great, it’s left them shortlisted for ‘Best Christmas Display’ out of all The Range’s 182 stores.

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Local coronavirus restrictions imposed to control outbreaks in South Wales



Coronavirus laws are being tightened in four more Welsh authorities – Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport – following a sharp rise in cases, Health Minister Vaughan Gething today announced.

The new measures will come into force at 6pm on Tuesday 22 September 2020, to protect people’s health and control the spread of the virus in the four local authority areas.

The new restrictions will apply to everyone living in Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport:

People will not be allowed to enter or leave these areas without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education;
People will only be able to meet people they don’t live with outdoors for the time being. They will not be able to form, or be in, extended households;
All licensed premises will have to close at 11pm;
Everyone over 11 will be required to wear face coverings in indoor public areas – as is the case across Wales.
From 6pm on Tuesday 22 September, the requirement for all licensed premises to close at 11pm will also be extended to Caerphilly borough.

Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, said:

“Following the decision to place additional coronavirus restrictions in place in Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf, we have seen a worrying and rapid rise in cases in four other south Wales council areas – Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport.

“In many cases, this is linked to people socialising indoors without social distancing. We are seeing evidence of coronavirus spreading. We need to take action to control and, ultimately, reduce its spread and protect people’s health.

“It’s always a difficult decision to introduce restrictions but coronavirus has not gone away – it is still circulating in communities across Wales and, as we are seeing in parts of South Wales, small clusters can quickly cause real issues in local communities.

“We need everyone’s help to bring coronavirus under control. We need everyone to pull together and to follow the measures which are there to protect you and your loved ones.”

The restrictions are being introduced following a rapid increase in the number of confirmed cases in coronavirus, which have been linked to people meeting indoors, not following social distancing guidelines and returning from summer holidays overseas.

The Welsh Government will call an urgent meeting of all local authority, health board and police forces from Bridgend to the English border tomorrow to discuss the wider situation in South Wales and whether further measures are needed across the region to protect people’s health.

The new local restrictions measures will be kept under regular review. They will be enforced by local authorities and by the police.

Keep Wales safe by:

Always keeping your distance
Washing your hands regularly
Working from home wherever you can
Following any local restrictions
Following the rules about meeting people
Staying at home if you or anyone in your extended household has symptoms.

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Welsh legislation will restrict those travelling from hotspot areas



MARK Drakeford, First Minister of Wales, has today announced legislation which will restrict those coming from coronavirus hotspot’s from travelling to Wales.

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has refused to impose rules which prohibit those from areas where the infection rate is high from entering low virus rate areas’s.

Mr Drakeford has made two requests to the Prime Minister requesting to impose rules which will mean those from high virus areas in England be prohibited from travelling to Wales, a request which has been denied by Mr Johnson.

The powers set by Mr Drakeford will come into force by the end of the week, unless Boris Johnson takes action sooner.

Speaking at the Plenary today, Mr Drakeford made the announcement, stating if Mr Johnson does not reply to his request by Friday then The Welsh Government will bring in legislation to restrict travel from those in English lockdown areas travelling to Wales.

Mr Drakeford said this was not a case of all those from England being restricted travel to Wales, just hotspot areas.

He said: “Evidence from public health professionals suggests coronavirus is moving from east to west across the UK and across Wales. As a general rule, it is concentrating in urban areas and then spreading to more sparsely populated areas as a result of people travelling.

“Much of Wales in now subject to local restriction measures because levels of the virus have risen and people living in those areas are not able to travel beyond their county boundary without a reasonable excuse. This is designed to prevent the spread of infection within Wales and to other areas of the UK.

“We are preparing to take this action to prevent people who live in areas where there are higher Covid infection rates across the UK from travelling to Wales and bringing the virus with them.

“I am determined to keep Wales safe.”

The legislation, which is understood to come into force Friday, October 16 at 6pm, will mean those travelling to Wales from areas of England which are classed as virus hotspot’s will be restricted.

The new legislation also restricts those travelling into Wales from high virus prevalence areas from Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The Leader of the Opposition in the Welsh Parliament – Paul Davies MS – has rounded on the First Minister over a ban on people entering Wales from England, and the Labour Party’s inability or unwillingness to publish comprehensive data proving that transmission rates are accelerating due to travel.

Mr Davies took the First Minister to task during Plenary today (October 14), and referred to a statement made by the leader of the Labour Party on September 23 when he said that the Welsh Government was not seeing any spikes at all in infection due to travel and tourism.

Mr Davies said that the people of Wales deserve to have sight of the data that underpins the Welsh Labour-led Government’s position on this matter, so that they can be confident that the Government’s actions are proportionate to the threat of the virus in their area.

Mr Davies also referred to a paper that accompanied the First Minister’s letter to the Prime Minister yesterday, a paper – that was not peer-reviewed – that confirms the data “…does not constitute definitive proof” in favour of a travel ban.

Mr Davies said: “The First Minister and his Government have acted rashly and without examining a range of other factors before a conclusion on whether to impose a travel ban or not is reached, while at the same time seemingly ignoring the fact that transmission rates in relation to travel had already peaked in August and September.

“It is incumbent on the First Minister to explain just why he has chosen to act in this way, and what supporting evidence he and his Ministers have seen to justify a ban and then publish it so it can be properly scrutinised.

“If he cannot or will not, then he must review and rescind this ban immediately.”

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